Parashat Vaera: Torah & the Land of Israel: The Sun and the Moon
In the beginning of Parashat Vaera, we read of G-d’s famous promises to Beneh Yisrael as they suffered as slaves in Egypt. G-d assured them that He would miraculously rescue them from bondage and bring them to the Land of Israel, which He would give them as a "Morasha" – "inheritance" (6:8).
As many have noted, the word "Morasha," with which the Land of Israel is here described, appears only on one other occasion throughout the entire Torah – in one of the Torah’s most famous verses: "Torah Siva Lanu Moshe, Morasha Kehilat Yaakob" – "Moshe has commanded us the Torah, as an inheritance to the Congregation of Yaakob" (Debarim 33:4).
Apparently, there is some connection between the Torah and the Land of Israel, a certain commonality, on account of which they both share the unique distinction of being called a "Morasha."
Several explanations have been offered for the link between these two vitally important elements of Jewish life. One approach is based on the Gemara’s comment in Masechet Berachot that several precious assets can be acquired only through "Yisurin" (literally, "suffering," or "afflictions"). These include Eretz Yisrael and Torah. Acquiring and maintaining the Land of Israel, as we know all too well, entails a great deal of effort and self-sacrifice. Many wars have been fought for the sake of returning to and rebuilding our sacred land, and even to this day, tragic sacrifices are made as this process continues to unfold. Torah scholarship, too, can be achieved only through sacrifice, by working very hard and foregoing on certain comforts and luxuries. One cannot acquire Torah knowledge unless he is prepared to make difficult sacrifices for it.
But there is also another reason why the Land of Israel and Torah are linked.
Our Sages teach, "Peneh Moshe Ke’hama, Peneh Yehoshua Ka’lebana" – "Moshe’s face was the like the sun, Yehoshua’s face was like the moon." Whereas Moshe’s face shone and radiated brightly like the sun, the face of his disciple and successor, Yehoshua, shone only like the moon. Moshe served many roles as our leader, but his primary role was that of lawgiver, bringing us the Torah. Yehoshua, too, served a number of different roles, but his primary achievement was leading our nation’s initial conquest of Eretz Yisrael. The moon, as we know, has no light of its own, but merely reflects the brilliant light of the sun. It shines only when it is aligned in such a way that the sun’s lights shine on it. The relationship between "Moshe" and "Yehoshua," between Torah and Eretz Yisrael, parallels the relationship between the sun and the moon. The "light" of Eretz Yisrael is dependent upon the "light" of the Torah. The uniqueness and sanctity of the Land of Israel stem directly and exclusively from the Torah. Our land is special and holy only because it "reflects" the "light" of the Torah, because it is where the lofty ideals and principles of our holy Torah are meant to be put into practice. Like the moon, the land has no "light" of its own. It is sacred only by receiving the sanctity of the Torah. And this can happen only when the land is properly "aligned" with the Torah, just as the moon shines only when it is properly aligned with the sun.
This is why the Torah and Eretz Yisrael are singled out by being referred to as a "Morasha" – because they are integrally linked. It is only when we shine the "light" of Torah onto our nation’s homeland that it achieves the unique stature for which it has been designated.